(19b) Addendum to (19)

The Crusader Campaign (084-1123)

What Kalida Did Before Lunch

(written by Melanie Drake)

Back in her stateroom, Kalida seals herself in and starts running simulations.

All that careful planning. Charting possibilties and honing them into probabilities. Sharing their knowledge and guesswork with those who needed to know. Incorporating new information into what they already had. Sharpening the probabilities more.

All for nothing.

Her original assumption, that Santanocheev was going to attack Adabicci, led her to warn him. The information she received from him, however, led her to downgrade that danger, and the Nighshade left him to warn Trin, Norris, and now Rhylanor. Thus, she abandoned Adabicci to what appeared to be a small risk of a light attack, with at least some aid coming from Lunion.

Their mere appearance at Adabicci led to Santanocheev strengthening his attack against Adabicci. Now he faced a nearly impossible situation, because of her decision. Yes, sure, the crew of the Nightshade as a whole made that decision, but she had lobbied and influenced them into coming openly into Adabicci, and then leaving. It was she who had decided Adabicci was in less danger, not more.

It was her fault.

Would Adabicci be destroyed? The duke and Eduard killed? What about Geoff, her friend? What would their defeat mean for the border of the Empire? Even if Norris defeats Santanocheev, what would losing Adabicci mean to him, to the Spinward Marches? What would it mean to her?

What had she done?

Could she fix anything, or had it already spiralled out of control? Would anything she did matter? Would any move she make worsen the situation? Would doing nothing do the same?

Did she need to change their planned movements? Did they need to stick with the plan they already had?

Kalida was uncharacteristically frozen with indecision, bewildered by the possibilities. They were too many, too tangled, too confusing to sort into the probabilities she could form into a strategy. She was pulled into too many directions, all of them bad ones.

She could feel everything unravelling around her, trapping her, the Nightshade, Adabicci, Geoff. The only thread that remained, strong and whole, was her guilt in Adabicci's peril.

What now?

She pored over her carefully plotted movements of Santanocheev's main force, the possible secondary force against Adabicci, the Nightshade, even the Witch Hunter.

Their new ability to jump 6 parsecs and be ready to jump again within a few hours changed things considerably. Still, if they were to remain unnoticed, any jump into a system had to be a standard, 5.5-day jump. She now considered that to be all too slow.

They must complete Norris' orders to bring Rhylanor to him, and that round-trip required two regular jumps. Allow an extra day for Rhylanor to prepare, plus an extra half-day for those quick-jumps, and their journey would occupy them until 093. It would likely be another day before they were released by Norris for their next mission, which meant 094 before they could leave Mora.

Norris wanted them to proceed to Mithras, to spy and harass. They could get there in two quick-jumps and a regular jump by 100. Theoretically, the fleets would begin arriving there by then as well, although they would almost certainly be later than that. However, there would surely be an advance force already there, waiting. There could also be forces from Glisten meeting them there.

More important than harassing a few destroyer escorts was the chance for Robert to steal their plans. They could discover more details, find out what changes they were making in response to the gathering resistance to their movements. How much did they know and what were they doing about it? Maybe Robert could even figure out some of their information sources, although that seemed unlikely.

There was almost certainly a force arriving in Olympia, on the way to Adabicci, at about the same time. The Nightshade could take its last jump into Olympia, arriving there on 100 instead of Mithras.

Would that help Adabicci? Hurt him? Would ignoring the forces on their way to Tussinian hurt Trin and Norris, and doom their defensive efforts?

Too many possibilities, and every ship, every action, was too important. How could she possibly sort through actions and counter-actions and come up with something meaningful?

Where would Nightshade have the greater effect? Which branch could Nightshade neglect with the least effect?

Even as she considered all the options, trying to come up with her own reaction, she uneasiloy wondered what was driving her decisions. She knew that as unknown others made their moves, it changed her own. Should she act against those unknown influences, move in a direction she would not otherwise choose? Or were those influences actually pushing her where she needed to be? How could she tell?

It was like playing an unknown number of games of chess concurrently, blinfolded, not knowing who her opponents were, what moves they were making, or if she had assistants helping her on some of the games, or undermining her. Or even if all the games were active. Perhaps some of them were empty, just taking her attention away from the real ones. Perhaps some should be lost, to assure later wins.

It was all too much. Kalida abandoned her notes and went to lunch, having made no decisions but concluding that she would have to make one eventually. Inaction was as dangerous as action, and she would have to pick a path somehow. Perhaps lunch would cure her headache.